MORE ON TRANSIT: A few concurrent initiatives are happening around transit. Other articles in this issue will provide updates on the community bus which was purchased from Valley Community Services (based in Creston) a few months ago. This bus is held by a local society. As it comes into service it will serve some of the immediate needs of our communities plus it can start to build the ridership case for establishing BC Transit service within Area A.
Currently the RDCK partners with BC Transit and Interior Health to provide a variety of transit services across the Central Kootenay with some connections to the East and West Kootenay. Funding formulas vary with BC Transit typically paying for half the cost of regular transit (through your provincial taxes) and the other half coming through local property tax where the services are established. Interior Health pays for the Health Connections service, described further below, from their funding allocation provided by the province.
The typical range of services include regular transit (running on a fixed route and schedule), by request service (examples can be found in parts of Creston), handyDART and Health Connections. Area A residents in the south portion (around Wynndel) have access to a fixed schedule bus which loops back and forth from Creston two days a week. They also have access to the handyDART service if they qualify. This is a door to door service for persons who have disabilities which prevent them from using the regular transit service. Information on what the handyDART service entails can be found on the BC Transit website. The overall schedule for the Creston Valley Transit System, with connections to Wynndel, Ericson and West Creston, can be found by searching Creston Valley Transit.
Creston Valley residents, along with any Area A resident who can make it into Creston for the morning departure time, can use the Health Connections bus to ride to Cranbrook and back for medical appointments two days a week. If seats are available, passengers without medical appointments may also ride this bus. The Health Connections bus is funded by Interior Health so it does not require a local property tax. The rider fare is very reasonable at just $2.50 per trip but the trips need to be booked 24 hours in advance.
For the northerly portion of Area A, we currently only have connectivity to the extensive West Kootenay transit network via the bus at Balfour. It took some time, but at least now the bus arrivals and departures from Balfour are scheduled to allow time to board or disembark from the ferry. Once on the Balfour side, riders can access regular transit or they can board the Health Connections bus which goes to the Kootenay Lake hospital in Nelson. They can also make connections to go to the Kootenay Boundary regional hospital in Trail.
BC Transit, in partnership with local government, has been very successful in increasing ridership in the west Kootenay since 2013 when several of the disjointed transit schedules were aligned to allow for easier travel from Trail to Nelson plus creating feeds from Nakusp, the Slocan and the Kaslo area. Now BC Transit is planning for a further expansion and enhancement of the system. If residents from the northerly portion of Area A can show an adequate demand for service we may be eligible to receive a substantial subsidy to establish BC Transit service along the east shore. This will likely take one and a half to two years after the demand case has been established. Currently BC Transit is looking for expansion ideas to put into their fall budget proposal.
On May 22, Transit planners along with the RDCK transit coordinator met with 17 stakeholder reps from the east shore to begin the planning cycle. In the coming months BC Transit planners will return to the east shore to hold public meetings to present ideas for transit routes along the east shore and to gauge the level of local support. If you anticipate a need to use transit now or over the next several years please consider coming out when meetings are announced.
A longer vision is to have BC Transit service running the full length of Area A from Riondel to Creston plus looping down to the ferry terminal. The current “service areas” which the RDCK would use to raise its portion of the funding are not continuous and each is aligned with a different transit network. Sorting out a long term plan will be complex and may require voter assent. The shorter term objective, as stated above, is to demonstrate a local demand for service and plug into the already established network on the other side of the Kootenay Lake ferry by having a feeder route on our side of the lake.
REMINDER ABOUT REGIONAL ENERGY EFFICIENCY PROGRAM: As noted in previous articles, the RDCK has been proactive in linking residents to grant programs, such as those offered by Fortis and BC Hydro, to upgrade their homes and appliances to save energy. The most recent program we are helping to promote is the Regional Energy Efficiency Program which has two funding streams, one for new construction and the other for home retrofits. The RDCK has partnered with the Community Energy Association and Nelson Hydro to roll out this program. Go to rdck.ca and look under the “services” tab then “sustainability” where at the bottom of the page you will see the link to “energy”.
A community meeting has been scheduled for 6pm on June 11th at the Crawford Bay hall where the program will be explained and contacts for further information and program applications will be available.
VOLUNTEERS FOR RDCK COMMISSIONS: We still have space for additional community volunteers on the Area A Economic development Commission, the Recreation 9 Commission and the Area A Advisory Planning Commission. There is also one more space available for an Area A resident from Wynndel on the Agriculture Advisory Commission. Please contact me to learn more about these positions. Your local knowledge and input is important to our communities.
If you have questions or comments on any topic please drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 250-223-8463.